Sudan

Sudan: African Union hasn't yet approved large Darfur force

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By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 (Reuters) - Despite pressure for Sudan to accept a peacekeeping force of 23,000 troops and police, a key African Union committee has not approved plans sent by the United Nations, diplomats said on Thursday.

Sudan has been sent an informal copy of details drawn up recently but a formal submission cannot happen until the AU's Peace and Security Committee gives its consent.

The problem is questions over command and control, said a U.N. Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information under his name.

"So the longer this goes on, the longer Sudan can sit back," the diplomat said. His account was confirmed by other U.N. envoys.

In November, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir agreed to a three-phase U.N. plan to strengthen the African troops but he has delayed formal acceptance of the first two phases for months and has complained that the proposed 23,000-strong U.N.-African Union so-called "hybrid" force is too large.

Last week the United Nations announced its plans had been accepted by the African Union but U.N. officials later said AU military experts had approved the 40-page U.N. submission.

But the delay by the African Union will probably mean a delay in the U.S.-British push for expanded sanctions in the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and South Africa questioned the timing and Beijing opposed all further penalties.

The United States imposed new sanctions on Sudan on Tuesday and sought support for an international penalties out of frustration at Sudan's refusal to end the Darfur conflict, where some 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been uprooted from their homes, many to arid camps.

Even U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was skeptical.

"I am very much committed to work as fast as I can to bring a comprehensive resolution in the political process, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian matters," Ban told reporters after the U.S. announcement.

But he added: "I need some more time."

U.S. President George W. Bush also directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consult with Britain and other allies on pursuing new U.N. sanctions against Sudan.

TRIP TO AFRICA

Britain weeks ago initiated such a resolution and both countries are still working on a text before wider distribution, Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said earlier in the week.

The measures include an arms embargo over the entire country, the monitoring of flights at Sudan's airport and a total prohibition of military flights over Darfur. The two nations also seek to add to the names of four individuals now subject to financial and travel bans.

The 15 Security Council ambassadors and their deputies intend to visit five African countries the week of June 17, beginning with Sudan, then going to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. They will also Ghana, which holds the AU presidency and Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which have large U.N. peacekeeping missions.

But it is doubtful any sanctions would be imposed before then.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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